Facebook Users’ Data Can Now Be Used To Serve Ads Outside Facebook

Facebook broke in its brand-new Facebook Terms and Policies Hub with a revamped data use policy, as announced by Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan in a post on the Facebook and Privacy page.

The three most significant changes, Egan told TechCrunch:

  • Facebook can now use users’ data to serve them ads while they are on websites outside of the social network.
  • The social network clarified how it uses cookies for internal improvements, but not to track its users across the Internet.
  • Facebook provided more details on how it will retain users’ data “as long as necessary to provide you services.”

CNET saw the first change outlined by Egan as a direct shot at Google and its primary revenue stream, and Director of Corporate Communications and Public Policy Barry Schnitt told CNET:

We can foresee a future where we might serve ads off of Facebook, and they may be standard ads or they might be, “Your friend John liked” a product.

This might be one way for the social network to address the potential revenue shortfall it warned of in the most recent amendment to its S-1 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in preparation for next Friday’s initial public offering.

Egan’s note announcing the new data use policy read:

When we launched our redesigned data use policy last year, our goal was to create a more transparent guide to how we use data when people use Facebook. We structured our policy to have a layered design that puts the most important information up front but lets you click on particular topics to see more details. We believe this flexible, transparent format strikes the right balance between simplicity and accessibility.

After we launched our redesigned policy, we received lots of positive feedback about our approach, and people encouraged us to continue our efforts to enhance the clarity of our policy. That message was echoed by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner’s Office, which completed a comprehensive audit of our data practices late last year and concluded that we had a “positive approach and commitment…to respecting the privacy rights of [Facebook] users. Like some of you, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner’s Office — which regulates our European affiliate, Facebook Ireland — encouraged us to enhance our data use policy to be even more detailed about how we use information.

Today, we’re proposing improvements that respond to this feedback. We’re adding more examples and detailed explanations to help you understand our policies. For example, we include additional tips, marked with a light bulb so you can find them easily. We’ve added new links to our help center. We created a new section explaining how we use “cookies” and similar technologies and updated the corresponding explanations about cookies in our help center. We also provide more information about how we use data to operate Facebook, to advertise, and to promote safety and security for Facebook users. These examples and explanations are designed to help you understand what the data use policy means in practice.

Since our last update to the data use policy, we’ve launched several new features, and we’re also updating our policy to include information about how they work. For instance, we describe activity log, a new privacy tool that lets you see in one place the information you’ve posted to Facebook. From activity log, you can control who can see each piece of information and decide whether it appears on your timeline. We also updated our policy to reflect our launch of timeline and to provide information on cover photos and other Facebook features that work with timeline. Finally, we’ve made a number of organizational changes to make things easier to find, as well as some administrative updates.

So what’s next? As part of our unique site governance process, you have a chance to review our proposed updates and give us feedback. To help you do this, we’ve posted a detailed explanation of our proposal, as well as the changes to the data use policy themselves, on our Site Governance page. In addition, I hope you’ll join me at noon EST/9 a.m. PDT Monday, May 14 for a video Q&A where I’ll answer some of your questions live. You can use this link to watch and ask a question by clicking the “Talk to Us” button.

The data use policy is one important way we try to provide people with transparency into our operations, but it’s not all we do. In addition, we offer nine other terms and policies, including our statement of rights and responsibilities, community standards, and policies addressing other activities on Facebook. This week we’ve also made all of these terms and policies more accessible by launching our Facebook Terms and Policies Hub, which will serve as a central location for all of our terms and policies. Our hope is that any time users have questions ranging from what content we’ll remove to how developers should interact with Facebook to their rights as a user, they’ll have easy access to the answer. This new page will be available at the bottom of most pages on Facebook under “Terms”, from the help center, and at Facebook.com/policies.

Please take a look and weigh in. We work on user privacy issues each and every day — it matters. We listen closely to your advice, and together, we can make Facebook the community we want.

Readers: What do you make of what we consider the biggest changes to Facebook’s data use policy — the ability to use users’ data to serve them ads while they are on websites outside of the social network?

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